Tag Archives: inspiration

How Crochet Saved My Life

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(This particular post may be triggering to some people with a history of depression, abuse, or self-harm — please proceed with caution.)

My grandmother has been trying to teach me how to crochet for most of my life.  I’d always thought it was just a lame thing that old ladies did to pass the time while watching their soap operas, and I’m terribly impatient, anyway, so I never had much success with it.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard her wail about not being around forever and that if I didn’t learn, no one would be left to pass it down to the children she assumes I’m going to produce someday like her mother did to her, and her mother’s mother and so on, so forth.  Then both crochet and knitting had an explosion of popularity among the crafting community, specifically with people my own age who figured out how to parlay ancient doily patterns into more modern (and often nerdy) areas, and several friends of mine, like the beautiful Tiny Leviathan and award-winning Crystal of /knit, really managed to pique my interest.  Without them, I doubt learning to crochet, knit, or otherwise transform yarn into something fancy using nothing but sticks would ever have made it onto my New Year’s Bucket List.

Technically, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, either.

Fear and depression are, sadly, regular guests in my life.  The past few weeks have been slowly adding on layer after overwhelming layer of stress, culminating in a sudden need to face one of my past traumas — admittedly one of the “minor” ones, if there is such a thing as a minor trauma, but still enough to send me into an awful spiral to rock bottom.  I spent a whole day shuffling around the bedroom, barely able to drag myself to the computer to check emails.  Most of the time I was laying in bed sobbing and thinking of how I should just file for divorce and allow The Husband to go on with his life, maybe find a wife who wouldn’t be so sad all the time.

Then came the terrifying nothingness, the same state I was in all those years ago when I attempted suicide.  I’ve tried to think of good ways to describe exactly what that kind of mental state feels like, as it isn’t quite the near-hysterical sadness most people picture it to be, at least not for me.  It’s more like lucid dreaming, where nothing seems real and you’re completely convinced that anything you do will be free of any consequence.  Despair turns from a tumultuous ocean to still waters.  You’re still trapped on that vast, black sea with no end in sight, but you can’t find a reason to scream or flail anymore.  It almost feels as if your very existence is running out, like a reel of film nearing the end.  This is how it’s supposed to be.  This is where the end comes.

I don’t remember exactly what led me to pick up the crochet.  One minute I was slumped against The Husband, listening to him ask me if we needed to go to the hospital so I could be put on watch.  “I don’t know,” I said, and suddenly I was sitting at my desk with a skein of cheap white yarn and an aluminum crochet hook — I must have asked my mother for them at some point, since these aren’t things I keep in my craft bin.  The first of Naztazia’s tutorials for beginner-level crochet was up on the screen and somehow my hands were following along.  I counted each chain, each stitch.  I kept counting until 3 in the morning, when I had half of a dishcloth finished and a completed TV series on Netflix.  The next morning I got up and did it again.  I finished the dishcloth, a horribly uneven thing with at least a handful of dropped stitches and haphazard tension towards the beginning.  But the rows near the end… hey, they actually looked pretty good.

Everyone who saw it praised me.  Several people with crochet experience were surprised at how comparatively well my first project turned out.  The Husband held it in his hands for  a few seconds, then hugged me tightly and told me he was proud of me.  I was caught off-guard by this.  Why would he be so proud of something so riddled with mistakes, something I knew for certain I could have done better?

“Because you’re still here,” he explained.  “And because you accomplished something.”

I’ve quickly determined that crocheting is an almost instant cure for any awful  feelings I may be experiencing.  Stitch, stitch, stitch — my hands are too busy to harm myself.  My brain is keeping track of what row I’m on and how many I have left to go instead of how hopeless the future is.  It’s something I apparently do well, something I can be proud of, something that reminds me that yes, I am capable of things.  Being able to touch and squeeze the soft yarn in my hands has a soothing effect, one that brings me back into the here-and-now when I start to drift, something not altogether dissimilar to the grounding therapy I was taught as a way to counter flashbacks from my PTSD.  Leaving a project unfinished overnight ensures that I’ll have a purpose, a goal for the next day.  Even managing to add a single row is a step closer to accomplishing the whole, which is, in and of itself, an accomplishment.  In just a few days I’ve gained new friends from the crochet and knitting communities, all of whom are incredibly welcoming and eager to share tips and tricks, and to encourage me so thoroughly I’m finding it impossible to feel bad when I make a mistake.  It’s empowering to know that if I mess up, I can just pull gently and undo a little bit of work.  Sure, it means a little extra time spent to complete the project, but seeing a bad stitch corrected to a good one, and knowing that was the one to improve upon it fills me with indescribable pride.

And maybe part of my newfound love of crochet is due to my grandmother after all.  If you asked me to picture her in my head, it’d be with a crochet hook and yarn in her hands.  As a small child I was always surrounded blankets, sweaters, hats, even doll clothes that she had painstakingly crocheted for me.  Even as an adult, I’ve got at least one fuzzy scarf and a gorgeous Gothic Lolita-style capelet she made for me.  My grandmother’s house was always full of crocheted works in progress, and it was also a safe haven for me when things got bad at my house, especially after my parents divorced.  I remember running for my life through our backyards with my biological father chasing me down, ready to beat me to a pulp (or worse) for some perceived slight.  She heard the gate slam and knew what was happening.  The back door was already open when I got there.  I blew past her into the room I slept in when I stayed there.  I grabbed a baseball bat from the closet and locked the door, eyes clenched shut and tears running down my face, waiting for the door to be kicked down, mentally practicing my swing for the kneecaps.  Except the door never opened, not until I was the one to turn the knob.  While I was hiding, my biological father had discovered that an extremely overweight five-foot-nothing old Mediterranean woman with two bad knees was a more formidable sparring opponent than any cage fighter out there.  I moved in with my grandparents shortly afterwards, but the association between my grandmother’s house and safety had already been chained onto the association between crochet and my grandmother’s house.  With every stitch, I feel like I’m back in my room there with the ancient avocado-green shag carpeting, those same four walls that served as my bastion of safety on so many occasions.  Nothing and no one can get to me as long as I have the yarn in my hands.  I am like my grandmother.  I am unstoppable.

I called her yesterday to tell her I’d finally learned to crochet.  The only other time I’ve heard her so happy was when I announced my engagement.

There’s still a lot for me to learn.  I’ve got a laundry list of projects I want to make, some of which will undoubtedly end up in my still-empty-and-badly-in-need-of-a-new-style Etsy store once I get a few more of the fancy stitches under my belt.  But now I know for certain that I’ll be around to practice them.

Everyone Is Afraid Of My Huge Rejection

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Sorry about the title, but I don’t think I’ve thrown a good dick joke out there yet, and my portfolio is 100% incomplete without it.

A few days ago I touched a little bit on the majestic failure that was my first phone interview.  I pointed out that none of us should let rejections faze us, something that is, of course, easier said than done, and that we should instead continue to push on through until we accomplished our goal.  I talked about the importance of self-care when accepting a “no” but otherwise didn’t really go into much deeper detail on how exactly to get past that ugly word unscathed.

Step into my bedroom (giggity) for a moment.

Don't judge me, I wasn't the one who picked the wall color.

Don’t judge me, I wasn’t the one who picked the wall color.

I’m about to make a horrific confession for which there is no redemption: this is my inspiration wall, which I got the idea for from Rachel Berry in an episode of Glee.

I watch Glee.

Truly, my life has hit rock bottom.

Despite the fact that I utterly hate the character of Rachel Berry with the passion of a thousand burning suns — I find her completely irredeemable — I found her inspiration cork board to be a great idea.  Her version showcases her five-step plan on how to achieve her goals of being a Broadway star.  I may have the same nose as her, but my singing voice sounds like a dying llama with vocal nodes, so a Broadway board really didn’t do me much good, and I don’t have a particularly good plan as far as how to get hired by Blizzard.  At the moment it pretty much consists of:

  1. Assemble portfolio.
  2. Apply for jobs.
  3. Preemptively move home to California in the hopes that this makes me a more desirable candidate.
  4. ???
  5. Profit.

Essentially, it’s the game industry version of dropping out of high school and moving to Los Angeles or New York City to get discovered.

My inspiration wall is more of a reminder to myself not to give up.  Though I’m beating up Shas on a regular basis, it’s sometimes hard to avoid feeling sorry for myself, or like this is all hopeless and I’m being foolish to even think I could possibly accomplish what I’m trying to do.  When I start to get depressed, I simply look to my right and see an onslaught of arguments as to why I should ignore my jerk of a brain and remind me that yes, I am a worthwhile and capable person.  These arguments are:

  • The “story” my mother wrote about my life
  • My NaNoWriMo 2012 winner’s certificate
  • The “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Could Mermaid Like Me?” bumper sticker I got from mermaid camp
  • All of the sweet letters and cards from my friends that I can find
  • The email letting me know that I had gotten a phone interview
  • The rejection letter stating that I did not get the job
  • A collage of direct messages from fans and idols of mine, kind comments on Twitter, my blog stats since the anti-bullying post, and photos of myself doing the following: attending a gallery opening of my photography, in the middle of my first professional modelling shoot, walking in my first runway show, hanging out with one of my music idols, my first public bellydance performance, and posing for a “promo” shot at mermaid camp
  • A small award for “Best Boobs” from last year’s Valentine’s Day party
  • The veil for my upcoming wedding
  • A full-length mirror

Most of the stuff up there is pretty self-explanatory, but undoubtedly a few items will seem to be strange choices.

To begin, a lot of you are probably wondering why I have a rejection letter taped to my wall.  Why on Earth could I possibly want that staring me in the face?  Because rejection is an important part of succeeding.  Anything worth doing is worth fighting for, and nothing that really matters comes easily.  Someday, when I’ve made it onto the design team, I will look back through all of the rejection letters and smile because the missteps make the end result all the sweeter.  I learned a lot from that phone interview (comedy option: that I should not be allowed to talk to other humans ever) that I can apply to my next one — and there will be a next one.  At the time I’m writing this I have six applications in with Blizzard, all for positions that genuinely interest me.  I won’t settle for something I know that I won’t enjoy or for another company that I don’t really want to work for just to get into the industry.  Reach for the stars, or don’t reach at all.  The path may be a little longer to get there, but in the end, it’ll be a lot less time and energy wasted for everyone involved.  This one job didn’t come through.  ‘Kay, there’s still six other ones that might, and if those don’t, then there will always be more jobs opening up.  I believe in fate, somewhat.  Maybe if I had gotten this job I would have hated it.  Maybe I’m about to get a call for my ultimate dream job, and if I had accepted this one, I wouldn’t be able to take it.   At any rate, it’s a reminder to me to work harder next time, and that yes, I am fallible.  The humility keeps me hungry.

My wedding veil is there to remind me, like the letters and cards from my friends, that I’m loved, and that whatever I do, I’m not alone.  The Fiance is along with me for the ride.  Where a lot of people think I’m foolish or naive for going after such lofty goals, he’s a third party who believes that my work is genuinely good, and not just good, but good enough.  If the stress gets to be too much, I know I can turn to him for support.  It’s also an example of a dream that I never thought possible coming true.  I had resigned myself to dying alone because I truly felt that no one would ever be willing to put up with me while I went chasing after my goals, or be able to accept me for the weird nerd girl that I am.  I used to dream of finding that one person, my soulmate, to serve as a partner in crime, though I never actually believed it’d happen.  Since it did, there’s no excuse for me to give up on my other dreams.

Finally, the mirror.  When I go to my wall and reread these things, I can glance at my reflection, and remind myself that I am the one who accomplished all of these things.  These are the experiences I am made of.  I set out to write a novel, and I did.  I wanted to be a mermaid when I was five, and it may have taken me twenty years, but I did it.  I don’t always like the girl I see staring back at me through the glass, but I can’t deny that she’s pretty remarkable with a grand and storied life that most people would probably think was at least three-quarters fabrication.  Also, I had no other place to put the mirror.  My bedroom is kind of small.

Is it hokey?  A little bit, but it works for me, and I think that we all need reminders of our own worth and ability once in a while.

I also created a special playlist in iTunes for myself that I put on whenever I’m filling out applications, making connections, writing, or feeling lost.

Again, it’s cheesy, but by surrounding myself with positive messages and affirmations, I can stand up tall, no matter how many times I get knocked down.

This doesn’t just extend to a single situation, either.  I’ve started to apply it to everything else in my life.  I make a mistake?  My bad, and I won’t do it again, but I’m not going to hide under a rock and cry about it for the rest of my life.  Somebody’s a jerk to me?  I’ve got even more people on my team.  Setbacks are a part of life, and every road has bumps in it.  Even once we achieve our goals, that doesn’t mean we should get complacent.  Keep doing whatever it is you do as passionately as you did on the way up.  Pretend like you’re still at square one.  Fight to get noticed, and once you do, keep fighting to prove that you deserve the attention and accolades.

The point is that rejection is nothing to fear.  Without rejection, we don’t learn anything.  It forces us to be flexible and creative, to reevaluate ourselves and keep from becoming stagnant.  Rejection doesn’t mean we’ll never be good enough, it means we know what detours we need to take and what we need to improve.

Realizing just how much you have in common with Rachel Berry, however… that’s something to worry about.

I Know Why the Caged Author Drinks

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Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between, I would like to announce to you that I am not dead, nor have I gotten bored with the decidedly unglamorous life of a freelance blogger.  In truth, it’s quite the opposite!  NaNoWriMo, however, has been taking up the majority of my time.  Since I started a full 10 days late due to catastrophic hard drive failure, I’m having to write extra fast and hard (giggity) to ensure that I finish by the deadline.  I’ve already managed to bust the 25,000 word mark, a.k.a. the halfway point, like a cheerleader on prom night.  If that simile has not completely offended you, I’d like to also point out that it’s not too late to sponsor my novel with a donation to the Office of Letters and Light!  I’ve also finally got an excerpt up for the curious among you to sample.

I definitely don’t regret entering NaNoWriMo.  I’ve been hearing about it for years, and it’s been a dream of mine to be able to dedicate myself to finishing an entire novel.  But I think I may have slightly underestimated the challenge when I signed up.  I’m obnoxiously talkative, to be sure, but 50,000 words?  That’s tough, even for me.  There are days when I really just want to lay in bed and watch Netflix all day instead of doing the responsible author thing and actually writing.  At least in this first draft, you can tell when those days are, because the parts written during severe cases of lazyassholitis (it’s a real disease, I looked it up) are rough, rough, rough.  Turning off my inner editor, who keeps insisting that if I don’t go back and fix it I’ll be no better than Stephenie Meyer, is no easy task.  Yet my oftentimes irrational refusal to give up on being able to dance around in the proverbial winner’s circle allows me to power through.  The key to winning NaNoWriMo is not necessarily talent.  It’s the ability to be stubborn as all Hell, even in the face of the death of your social life or possibly your sanity.

And anyway, my resume for Blizzard is woefully thin.  If I can finish this, I can add “NaNoWriMo Winner for 2012” to the list, and hopefully be able to actually publish the novel.

Oh yeah, the social life.  I used to have one.  Not this month, though!  I keep getting concerned texts and emails from friends seeing if I’m okay, because they haven’t heard from me in a while.  “When are we going to get to see you?” they ask.  The answer, guys, is probably December, assuming I don’t develop an aneurysm by then.  I’m not being cold-hearted, either.  Every time I get a request to hang out, I make grabby hands at whatever screen I happen to be reading it off of and weep.  Writing a novel, at least in such a condensed time frame, is basically like a 30-day free trial of agoraphobia.  The special bonus challenge level is going to hit this Wednesday, when The Fiance returns to my part of town just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It’s times like this that I wish I were Canadian so I could have gotten the threat of holiday-induced slackerdom out of the way like two months ago.  Three months.  I don’t know, whenever you weird mountie people celebrate your bizzaro-world holidays, like Boxing Day.

In general, I’m starting to understand why Edgar Allan Poe and so many other authors drank themselves to death or died poor and crazy.  The stress of looming deadlines, the isolation, the constant second-guessing of yourself and pressure to, you know, not completely suck — it’s a lot to have on your plate, especially when you’re trying to juggle other aspects of your life at the same time.  And freelance writing in general doesn’t really pay a lot, or steadily, unless you get extremely lucky or have a great self-marketing strategy.  What time I’m not spending on the novel itself is being devoted to promoting myself on various social media outlets and just trying to get the word out that hey, I can write, you guys, and I’d also like it if you threw dollar bills at me like some kind of linguistic stripper for doing it.  All in all, I have just enough time to eat, spend an hour or two to myself, and fall asleep so that I can experience some of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had thanks to constantly using the creative parts of my brain.  I had one where I got hired for the game design team at Blizzard and my clothes got ruined on the way to my first day of work, so I showed up in a toga made out of a Star Wars blanket while trying to avoid my boss so that he wouldn’t think I was being unprofessional.  I’m also eating like crap — quick meals devoured at the speed of light so that I can get back to writing.  On top of all that, I have managed to give myself the worst lower back spasms in the world from spending all day sitting at my desk tapping away at my keyboard.  People assume that I’ve messed up my back while working out or doing something productive.  The look on their faces is priceless when I tell them “No no no, you see, I’m a writer…”

And I wouldn’t change a damn thing for the world.  Writing is still my passion.  It is the first thing I have done, the first “job” I’ve had, even if it is, right now, on an “on my own” type of basis, where I’ve worked unreasonably long hours and had to overcome ridiculously tall hurdles and I haven’t wanted to give up.  For all the self-abuse that being a writer hurls at me, the dirty looks from people who think that writing isn’t a real career or consider me to be a starving artist (I totally would be without all of those Hot Pockets and fast food tacos), the slow months where I find myself looking through all of my stuff figuring out what I can sell or pawn to make ends meet, it is still completely worth it, at least in my world.  I stand tall and proud as I walk down the street.  I tell everyone I talk to about the novel I’m writing, or my aspirations to be a game designer.  When they tell me “Bunny, you’re never going to make it,” I tell them that not making it is not an option for me.

If you’re a writer reading this, allow me to grab you by the shoulders and shake you like a British nanny while I implore you to never, ever give up. If it’s truly your dream, if you’re ready to dedicate yourself to a lot of lonely nights and a lot of ramen noodles, you will succeed.  I’m there with you in spirit, probably ghost-tripping over all the shit you’ve got laying out in the middle of the living room floor (seriously, how old are you, 10?  Clean it up before you kill someone).  Solidarity fistbumps all around.